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When Crime Is Close to Home

Gary Slutkin: Is it possible to end violence?
Image by AlphachimpStudio via Flickr

Briana Goode has never been the type to go unnoticed. She’s the pretty, outgoing, loud cheerleader that knew everyone in high school and makes friends without trying. She loves attention–but being overlooked may have saved her life.

“I knew I shouldn’t have gone out alone,” she said. “It was just up the street and my naïve self thought nothing of it.”

A resident of the South Loop, Goode lives in a Chicago apartment while she attends school. She’s heard the warnings but like many students, thought it could never happen to her.

“I needed to drop something off at a friend’s dorm. It was a little after 11 at night on a Tuesday,” she remembers. “I was walking home by myself and I passed an alley. Not two minutes after, I heard a girl screaming.”

She had been walking on S. Dearborn Street. When she turned around, she saw a girl about her age being attacked by two men. They were dressed in dark jackets and hats, causing Goode to completely overlook them they way they overlooked her.

“They must not have seen me. There was nothing special about this girl. It was just a random attack. It could’ve easily been me.”

She ran up the street and used her cell phone to call the police. By the time police arrived, the assailants had taken the girl’s bag and gotten away.

“If I hadn’t had my phone, I wouldn’t have known what to do for her. There were no businesses open and no one was around,” Goode said. “I’m just glad she was okay.”

Not even two hours later, Goode received an update on her phone– had sent her a notification of the crime she had almost been a victim of. The site breaks Chicago down into wards and includes everything from crimes to real estate listings.

“I have the notification system set up, and when I got that alert, I was like…‘wow.’ They listed the victim’s height and age and I just kept thinking, I could’ve been that girl,” she said.

Goode said she thinks Everyblock is an amazing resource, and from now on she knows better than to take those emails for granted.

In a matter of one week, the 2nd Ward, where Goode lives, averages about 200 crimes, according to Everyblock. Everything from vandalism to prostitution has been reported just in the month of March. The site uses public records from the Chicago Police Department to alert the public to the nature of the crimes and where and when they take place.

Josh Bowen, an employee at a local Office Max, said he used the site when he was looking for an apartment.

“It’s a great tool,” he said. “Not that the precedent matters when it comes to crime, but knowing the areas with repeat offenses helped me narrow my search down.”

He, like Goode, has a link to it on his smart phone that alerts him whenever there’s a crime in his area.

Both Goode and Bowen used the technology as an active way to prevent or be aware of crime, and the concept is becoming popular across the city.

“Before I knew about the site, I relied on the news, which only reports the big crimes,” Goode said. “Now, with that and my Droid [smart] phone, I feel like I can help myself and other people stay safe. After that night, that’s all I can hope for.”

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